European Health Insurance Card

Members of EU national health schemes travelling within the European Economic Area (EEA) previously benefited from the E111 system, which allowed visitors to other member countries to use the public healthcare sector on the same terms as a local resident. You could now benefit from applying for a European Health Insurance Card.

What are the main differences between the E111 and its replacement, the EU Health Insurance Card?

The extended rules maintain most elements of the existing E111:
  • the scheme only covers short-term stays
  • the card will not give access to local 'private' treatment, except in those countries where locals themselves have access under the public scheme
  • expatriates resident in other EU countries will not be covered by schemes from their 'home' countries
There are also important changes to E111 forms included the whole family but in future each member of a family will need to have their own EU Health Insurance Card (these are issued nationally).

The scheme will be extended to provide all covered visitors with not only emergency care but also necessary care. This means non-emergency care will be provided if it is appropriate to a patient's condition and intended length of stay. 

Which countries does this affect?

The E111 system applies to the whole of the European Economic Area (EEA) which consists of the 15 member states of the European Community - including the UK and Ireland - as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is not included 

What kind of treatment is covered by the EU Health Insurance Card?

As with the previous E111, any emergency treatment you may need while visiting member countries is covered. In addition, the extended scheme allows for 'necessary' treatment.

'Necessary' treatment consists of medical treatment which is appropriate to your condition and length of stay. You will not qualify for treatment for something that you are already on the waiting list for in your home country, or if the treatment you need can reasonably wait until you get home after your planned visit. 

If I have a new EU Health Insurance Card, do I also need private travel insurance?

The UK government recommends everyone should have the E111 to which they are entitled but stresses that everyone should also take out suitable private cover for their travel abroad. This is because the E111 system, whether using forms or cards, is necessarily limited to public scheme rights which can be unfamiliar and incomplete.

To avoid the confusion of trying to work out the public healthcare system of the country you are visiting in advance, especially if you are visiting more than one in a trip, it is more reassuring to have health insurance that also gives 'private treatment' options and repatriation cover in the countries to be visited.

It is also highly recommended to take travel insurance to cover loss of baggage, passport and any delays or liabilities that may occur. 

How do the changes affect expatriates?

As with the previous E111 system, expatriates who become resident in other EU countries will not be covered from their home country and so will not be able to use a card issued from there.

Depending on their country of origin and the public entitlements of the country of residence, expatriates often prefer to take out an international health insurance policy to provide healthcare peace of mind. With an international health insurance policy expats will be covered everywhere (within the region specified on their policy) and medical expenses will be settled in a straightforward manner.

It is important to note that the EU Health Insurance Card scheme is not be a replacement for buying travel insurance, or international medical insurance outside the EEA. Nor does it cover expatriates as they travel from country to country, unless they qualify for a new card issued by their EEA country of residence.

Bupa Global is the largest international expatriate health insurer in the world. As part of the Bupa group which covers 8 million members world-wide, Bupa Global was the first to make available a flexible structure of benefits to provide comprehensive cover for hospital treatment and specialist fees anywhere in the world.

Bupa Global offers an exceptional level of protection and support for people who are living or working outside their home country. Peace of mind is ensured by our 24-hour multi-lingual helpline, open 365 days a year, and a team that has the experience and training to take control of any emergency situation. Benefits of direct settlement of bills, fast claims turnaround and local knowledge on a global scale ensure Bupa Global can be relied upon to take away stress at often difficult times.

No. Standards, methods and costs of healthcare vary enormously within the EEA. Some countries have excellent standards, but in countries where even the locals have difficulty accessing the public healthcare scheme, visitors will be no better served.

Even if you require and receive 'emergency' or 'necessary' healthcare while abroad, in some countries patients are expected to pay for this at the time. Generally you will be able to get most of that reimbursed later, but if for some reason your E111 form or card has not been shown to the doctors or you inadvertently get treatment in the wrong part of the hospital or even end up in a private hospital, you will not be able to get reimbursed. (In the UK, the NHS will never reimburse a patient for non-E111 treatment when they get home).

To avoid any confusion and to enable you to be treated faster, it is safer to be covered for every eventuality with your own private health insurance policy. 

Does the scheme mean I can travel abroad purely to receive medical treatment?

No, not generally if the purpose of travel is to receive public-paid treatment - there are separate systems for that. For example, in the UK any travel for hospital treatment has to be pre-authorised by the NHS, which has its own rules.

The extended E111 system intends that people with European public health cover should not be discouraged from EEA travel just because they might need incidental treatment. 

What does the card look like?

The new EU Health Insurance Cards are blue and share one of two common formats. They will not initially be electronic in most countries, and will show no confidential information. 

I'm an existing Bupa Global member, what action do I need to take?

If you are a frequent traveller and hold Bupa Global cover it is advisable to obtain a European Health Insurance Card, as long as your travel pattern retains residence in the UK or another EEA country.

For complete peace of mind, a Bupa Global policy can provide you with the right level of medical insurance cover you need.

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If you have any questions or would like help choosing the right level of cover, please get in touch.

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